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Chamber Called For All The Facts On Runway Extension

The Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce in presentations to City Council and Committee in June called for all the facts on the runway extension and supported the council resolution to host a public meeting and an Independent Peer Review and Gap Analysis recommended by the City staff. The Chamber felt the review would address the environmental, noise, and safety concerns as well as the economic and business case for the runway extension.

The Chamber is disappointed that City Council has decided not to proceed with the public meeting and the Peer Review and Gap Analysis recommended in the staff report for the runway extension.

In its address to Council, the Chamber stated the business community expects due diligence and adherence to proper process with respect to the airport’s future operations. The Chamber felt a peer review study should be employed so that concerns on the part of those respondents worried about the proposed expansion’s impact on health, safety, environmental and quality of life, can be examined, addressed and mitigated. Some of the proponents opposed to the runway extension questioned why the Chamber of Commerce was just speaking out now.

Since December 2005, the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce has been following the Airport file, first sending a letter to the City supporting the request from COPA (Canadian Owner’s and Pilot’s Association) for an Economic Impact Study to be done on the Oshawa Municipal Airport. In February 2007, the Chamber addressed the City of Oshawa Strategic Initiative Committee supporting the City report to develop a new Business Plan. In the development of the Business Plan the Chamber encouraged the City of Oshawa to include business and other stakeholders and to consider as part of the plan synergies that may exist or could be developed between the Airport, Durham College and UOIT.

Again, in February 2008, the Chamber made a presentation to the City of Oshawa Strategic Initiative Committee supporting the City report on the Business Plan for the Oshawa Municipal Airport. The report made 15 recommendations and supported the strategy in the City of Oshawa Strategic Plan of developing new job opportunities.

In December 2011, the Chamber was to appear as a delegation at the Development Services Committee meeting concerning the Runway Extension. At the overcrowded meeting Committee members Councillors Aker, Chapman, England, Pidwerbecki, Sanders and Mayor Henry unanimously supported a resolution “that the public meeting concerning the proposed expansion of runway 12/30 at the Oshawa Municipal Airport be rescheduled to arrange for a larger venue to allow all members of the public to attend.” On January 30, 2012 City Council adopted the recommendation with only Councillor Marimpietri and Neal voting in the negative.

Six months later, and still NO Public Meeting, a motion went before Council June 25th from the Development Services Committee supported by Councillors Aker, Chapman, England and Sanders to reconsider Council’s January 30, 2012 direction to hold a public meeting and to stop the process and deny the public proper process. A reason given was Council is now aware of the significant community opposition to the proposed runway extension.

Comments from proponents opposed to the study at Development Services Committee suggested the community does not want an airport extension and requested the Committee consider the legitimate concerns of the majority of local residents over the business interests of a few and that the public feedback collected at the open house events (384 written comments of which 209 were opposed to the runway extension or wanted more information) have clearly defined the community’s position on the matter.

At the June 18th committee meeting the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce presented Council with 197 letters from the business community supporting the City of Oshawa conducting an Independent Peer Review & Gap Analysis. The letters stated “as a taxpayer in Oshawa and Durham Region the respondents agreed the proposed runway extension at the Oshawa Airport can be a significant economic catalyst for the existing businesses of Durham Region and the potential to attract new businesses and creating jobs.”

The respondents agreed it was important for City Council in its deliberations to have all the facts prior to making a decision on the runway extension.

“In these times of economic constraint and job losses and unemployment running at over 8% in Oshawa the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce would be extremely disappointed if Oshawa City Councillors defeated a motion to conduct the Independent Peer Review and Gap Analysis without having all the facts,” stated Bob Malcolmson, CEO of the Chamber. “In the end, the runway expansion may or may not go forward but it is important to follow through on the process to make that decision.”

Councillors, Pidwerbecki, Wood, Bouma and Mayor Henry agreed that more answers were needed and the June 18th motion to reconsider was defeated for lack of a two thirds vote. Council also rejected the offer by the business community to fund the Peer Review and Gap Analysis.

After some political maneuvering, a similar motion to the one passed at the Development Services Committee meeting was passed by council. Mayor Henry, Councillors Pidwerbecki, and Wood voted against the motion and Councillors Aker, Diamond, Neal, Marimpietri, Sanders, Bouma and Chapman voted in the affirmative—pulling the plug on the Runway Extension. The motion stated council does not support the runway extension, that no further work be done on the runway, that notice of Council’s decision be made public and that staff devise an updated business plan for the airport.

As many residents and stakeholders may not have read the reports, it is important to understand several critical facts contained in the report:
•    neither the City nor the Airport Manager have the legal authority to limit flight training or any other type of aircraft movements to the airport;
•    projected movements with a 4,000 foot runway, there is a potential of a total of 153,973 aircraft movements, of which 80,629 could be flight training aircraft;
•    the additional flight training would represent approximately 553 minutes of additional noise on average each day;
•    projected airport movement’s with a 5,000 foot runway 103,663 with corporate; and
•    56,310 more flights on a shorter runway, an increase of training flights potentially of 287%.

In its presentation to Council the Chamber respectfully submitted that Council did not have all the information and that the residents living around the airport were not representative of the City.

The Chamber position is that there must be a fair and balanced review allowing all 152,000 residents, the business owners and other stakeholders to be provided with information in order to make a fully informed decision. “This is why our Chamber fully supported the peer review, and continue to do so,” stated Geoff Michie, President of the Chamber, adding, “the Chamber supports the creation of a steering committee, and the public meeting approved by council in January.” The Chamber feels the residents of Harmony and Taunton, South Oshawa, Grandview and Bloor or King and Wilson should have the same rights as the residents surrounding the airport, as should the business owners investing their dollars in Oshawa.

To read the complete presentations or to view the Channel 12 “In Depth” interviews with Bob Malcolmson, CEO of the Chamber check the links below.

Studio 12 In Depth July 4th 2012 – Part 1 with Dan Carter and Bob Malcolmson, Chamber CEO & General Manager

Studio 12 In Depth July 5th 2012 – Part 2 with Dan Carter and Bob Malcolmson, Chamber CEO & General Manager

Studio 12 In Depth July 6th 2012 – Part 3 with Dan Carter and Bob Malcolmson, Chamber CEO & General Manager